Cuba “Seizes” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, the Cuban government has banned people from knowing about and spreading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Cuba.

By Marlene Azor Hernandez

Avenue of the Port in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — On March 6th and 7th this year, a Cuban delegation produced a report about the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance before the UN General Assembly which is assessing how member States are applying this Convention.

The Cuban government signed and ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in February 2009. However, in its latest intervention it has postponed the application of the International Convention in the country’s domestic legal system indefinitely. The Cuban delegation has said that it has been reforming its penal code and other laws since 2012. When asked whether the principles of the Convention were being incorporated into national legislation, the Cuban delegation responded that it didn’t know.

During the repressive crackdown in 2003 known as the “Black Spring”, during which 75 activists and independent journalists were charged and sentenced to between 15 and 20 years in prison and there were even sentences up to 28 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was one of the documents which was seized, among others, used as incriminating evidence against those charged. It was considered “enemy propaganda”, an offense in the Cuban penal code.

On other occasions, I have noted that on January 2016, children and teenagers were told to burn copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a “hate rally” against the Ladies in White. That same year, Baptist pastor and opponent Mario Felix Lleonart, denounced and revealed that Cuban customs seized 64 copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it was considered an attack against “decency”, as if it were child pornography.

Cuban retirees cashing their checks at the bank. Photo: Juan Suarez

At the session held on March 6th and 7th this year at the UN, the Cuban delegation safely claimed that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is of widespread public knowledge. All of the authorities and officials responsible for knowing how to apply and safeguard this Convention said they are aware of it, however, one of the ten committee members revealed that the Convention didn’t even appear in the content which was required reading for public meetings in 2015 for filling roles in the country’s legal system. There was no reference to any of the eight United Nations’ Conventions which Cuba has ratified.

The Cuban government has banned the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from being spread in Cuba. It also doesn’t allow the Cuban public to learn about the Conventions which the government has ratified and much less the state of compliance with the Conventions which it has to apply to its national legislation as a Member State, once they have been ratified.

Therefore, the population is kept in the dark about the Cuban government’s international commitments with the UN and the Cuban people are being abused because they don’t know about their rights, which have been ratified by their own government but which present serious breaches.

The Conventions and non-compulsory protocols which Cuba has ratified are the following:

– The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified in May 1995.

– The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, ratified in February 2009.

– The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified in July 1980.

-The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ratified in February 1972.

– The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified in August 1991.

Cafeteria. Photo: Juan Suarez

– The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified in September 2007.

– Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified in September 2001.

– Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, ratified in September 2001.

The Cuban government has violated these Conventions and Optional Protocols which it hides from national public opinion. Forbidding people from talking about Human Rights in Cuba is its first violation of its commitments to the UN. With this poor track record in Human Rights, does it make sense for Cuba to be on the UN’s Human Rights Council since 2006?

Reports about the Cuban government’s violations of these Conventions can be found on the High Commissioner for Human Rights website, under the Cuban section. If they had the chance to read them, Cuban citizens would be able to assess Human Rights violations on the island.  However, the government refuses to make public and spread the reports findings in the mass media.

One thought on “Cuba “Seizes” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Not surprising in an athauritarian regime that stays in power through broad control of social and economic matters. The thing most feared is personal rights and freedoms.

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